After a whirlwind of travel this fall, I am finally starting to digest some of the valuable presentations I heard from experts at several conferences and the great conversations I had with many readers. Thanks to everyone who took the time to speak with me and share their insights on the business of civil engineering. I enjoyed meeting all of you and hope to reconnect in the new year.
The theme running through every conference session and every conversation was what a firm can do to improve its business, and hopefully grow it. Whether the discussion was about trends, technology, economics, regulations, et cetera, the gist was understanding how it can impact your firm and lead to increased efficiencies or opportunities.
I’ve learned over the years that some remarkable firm leaders create a culture that encourages improvement and growth to be foremost on employees’ minds, regardless of their level or function. Others have a culture that places this responsibility only on the "privileged" few in management. I think the former is certainly a better model, and one that helps firms grow while enabling the managers to keep their sanity!
Mark Zweig’s presentation at The Zweig Letter Hot Firm Conference in October discussed the difference between an entrepreneurial firm and one that is merely a small business. It supported my idea of two types of culture. He discussed how entrepreneurial firms have "a clear mission and sense of purpose about what business the company is in. This mission and sense of purpose is known to all inside and outside of the firm. Entrepreneurial firms want everyone to buy into and support the company goals—including employees, clients, and partners—so they develop and promote a worthwhile sense of purpose."
He also discussed how entrepreneurial firms are committed to growth. Zweig said, "Entrepreneurial firms believe that growth is possible even in markets that aren’t growing. They know that growth is good and essential if you want to be able to keep anyone who is any good, and that a smaller piece of a growing pie can be more valuable (and liquid) than an entire small pie!"
Regardless of the type of firm you work for or lead, there is opportunity for you to maintain a growth focus in your everyday life. And who knows, maybe your mindset will rub off on your co-workers! This issue of CE News presents several articles that will help you to uphold this resolution. Check out the cover story, "Where does opportunity lie? Insight for civil engineers" to get a handle on the opportunities and constraints expected for our industry in the coming year. I’d also suggest reading the article, "The Zweig Letter Hot Firm 2007 List," which provides an inside look at how a transportation design firm achieved the levels of revenue growth during the last three years that warranted recognition on this list and more. Also, our Beyond Words guest columnist, John Doehring, shares his take on what successful firms are doing to be ready for 2008 but, most importantly, the long-term future.
I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year! And as a reminder, if one of your firm’s tenets for success is a great workplace, you should apply for the Best Civil Engineering Firms To Work For. Go to www.cenews.com/bestfirm to learn more. The deadline is April 4, 2008.